Crown Heights was one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Brooklyn at the turn of the last century, and the alluring architecture of that era, along with new residential development, is attracting newcomers and spurring rapid change.
Roughly two square miles, with about 130,000 residents, Crown Heights was dogged for years by a reputation for intolerance and violence after the 1991 riots involving blacks and Hasidic Jews. But residents say it has shed those associations.
“I feel like that’s not a part of the present reality,” said Beth Cohen, who moved with her husband, Chris Chazin, and their two daughters from nearby Park Slope to Crown Heights last fall. Their five-bedroom townhouse, in need of renovation, cost $1.125 million.
“If you don’t know a place, you always remember that one thing that was in the news, but it seems to be not relevant for people who live here anymore,” she added.
The majority of residents in Crown Heights are African-American, Caribbean and Caribbean-American. The neighborhood also has a populous Lubavitcher Hasidic section, centering around Kingston Avenue south of Eastern Parkway.
But demographics are changing. According to census data, the black population shrank to 70 percent from 79 percent from 2000 to 2010, and the white population almost doubled to 16 percent, while the number of Hispanic and Asian residents also grew.
Ms. Cohen said the neighborhood has a thriving stoop life, and neighbors are engaged in the community.
“When we’re outside our house, we get a lot of ‘good morning, good afternoon, welcome to the neighborhood, your house looks great,’ ” she said. “It sounds almost Pollyannaish, but it’s that friendly.”
Ms. Cohen is pleased with the business growth along nearby Nostrand Avenue, which is home to older favorites like Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine, along with newer establishments, like Colina Cuervo, an Ecuadorean coffee bar and cafe, and the bar Two Saints.
Longtime homeowners are seeing a steep rise in property values. Deborah Washington, who bought her two-family home for $350,000 in 2002, said an identical home nearby sold for more than $1 million recently. The neighborhood was different when she arrived, she said.
“When we first moved here, it did get noisy, and we could still hear gunshots, and there were problematic properties on our block,” said Ms. Washington, whose son was born in Crown Heights. “There was a lot of garbage, and at one point a rat infestation, so it wasn’t without growing pains.”
Initially ambivalent about Crown Heights, Ms. Washington said that with the decrease in crime and growth in conveniences like banks, she now has no plans to leave. However, she is worried that the area’s rapidly inflating home values are pushing out some of her neighbors, including many black and lower-income residents.
“I want great people to move on the block — people who are going to take care of their properties and be neighborly — so I don’t care what race or income they are, but I do worry what this means for the diversity of the neighborhood,” she said.
What You’ll Find
Crown Heights is roughly bordered by Washington, Atlantic and Ralph Avenues and Empire Boulevard. With four historic districts, it is notable for its streets lined with rowhouses. Structures tend to be two or three stories, though there are four-story homes, for example, along Eastern Parkway, a promenade with a pedestrian mall on either side designed by Frederick Law Olmsted with Charles Vaux.
While the historic districts are north of Eastern Parkway, “there’s a row of beautiful homes on President Street,” south of the parkway, said Sima Denebeim, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate who lives in the neighborhood. “I recently had one listed at $3.5 million.”
There are not many condominiums and even fewer co-ops, said Chaya Zarchi, an agent with B. H. Tal Real Estate who lives in the neighborhood. But over the last year, at least two dozen rental and condo projects have been in development, particularly in the area west of Nostrand Avenue and north of Eastern Parkway.
That area has also seen Franklin Avenue become a thriving retail hub, with a Starbucks that opened last year around the corner on Eastern Parkway, and Berg’n, a beer hall with food vendors, on Bergen off Franklin.
What You’ll Pay
The price of new residential development has increased in Crown Heights more than in any neighborhood in the borough except Downtown Brooklyn, according to data from MNS Real Impact Real Estate. From the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of this year, it rose by almost 45 percent to $880 a square foot.
Prices for homes in the neighborhood have increased by roughly 14 percent since last year, according to sales information provided by real estate agents. Single-family homes typically sell for around $800,000 to $1.5 million; two-family homes for $1.2 million to $1.7 million; three-family homes for $1.6 million to $2 million; and the rarer four-family homes for $2 million to $2.2 million, Ms. Denebeim said.
Condos range from around $350,000 for a one-bedroom to $550,000 to $800,000 for a hard-to-find three-bedroom, she said. Rentals range from about $1,250 to $1,350 a month for studios to $2,600 to $3,200 for three-bedrooms.
What to Do
Crown Heights has the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Jewish Children’s Museum and the Weeksville Heritage Center, dedicated to the history of one of the country’s first free black communities, called Weeksville.
Recreation options include Brower Park, with playgrounds and ball courts, and St. John’s Recreation Center, with an indoor pool and playing fields.Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library are all just west of Crown Heights. Eastern Parkway is the route of the West Indian American Day Parade on Labor Day.
The avenues tend to have retail shops. Franklin and Nostrand are flourishing with new establishments, as is Kingston Avenue, which serves the Hasidic community with Judaica stores and kosher restaurants.
Crown Heights has at least a dozen public elementary schools, about half a dozen middle schools and several high schools. Public School 138, on Prospect Place, serves about 700 students from prekindergarten to Grade 8. According to its 2013-14 School Quality Snapshot, 23 percent of students met standards in English, versus 28 percent statewide, and 24 percent met math standards, versus 34 percent citywide.
One alternative for prekindergarten through Grade 8 favored by some parents is St. Mark’s Day School, on President Street, Ms. Washington said. The neighborhood also has many yeshivas.
The 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains stop at Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights; from there the 2 and 5 run south along Nostrand Avenue while the 3 and 4 head east along Eastern Parkway. A shuttle links the four lines to the A and C trains just north of Crown Heights at Franklin Avenue; the trip to Midtown Manhattan takes about 30 minutes from western Crown Heights. The Long Island Rail Road has a stop at Nostrand and Atlantic Avenues.
Between 1890 and 1910, Crown Heights was one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Brooklyn, according to the Crown Heights North Association. In the early 20th century, Irish, Russian Jewish and Italian immigrants, among others, moved to the area, as did early Caribbean arrivals. People from Harlem migrated to Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant with the opening of the A subway line in the 1930s. Large numbers of Caribbean immigrants joined them, and by the end of the 1960s, Crown Heights was predominantly African-American and Caribbean.